2008 Cadillac Escalade EXT Performance

$14,645 - $14,645

2008 Cadillac Escalade EXT Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2008 Cadillac Escalade EXT was new.


Performance: 8.0

Even though the 2008 Escalade EXT is a big, heavy vehicle, it has a surprisingly car-like ride that's coupled with impressive thrust from its V8 engine. But the Escalade EXT is hurt in our performance rankings by mixed impressions of both braking and steering.

Acceleration and Power

Only a single engine is available for the nearly 6,000-pound Escalade EXT, and it's a big one, a 6.2-liter V8 that can generate 403 horsepower, plenty of low-end torque and a towing capacity of 7,600 pounds. By and large reviewers think this engine is great, but several lament that even this much power can barely keep up with the EXT's bulk. "I think this is one of GM's best engines," says the Dallas Morning News. "But 5,838 pounds of weight definitely dulls some of the engine's luster." Kelley Blue Book finds that the V8 "thrusts the big vehicle forward with eye-opening authority." Lastly, Cars.com writes that the EXT "could probably surprise some punks at the drag strip."

The Environmental Protection Agency doesn't publish fuel economy ratings for vehicles in the EXT's weight class, but Cadillac says that it gets the same gas mileage as the Escalade ESV: 13 miles per gallon in the city and 19 on the highway. "If you can afford a vehicle that gets fuel economy in the teens," says Newsday, "and you don't feel any guilt about driving one -- you'll find the redesigned-for-2007 Escalade family to be competitive and then some as big SUVs go."

The EXT comes with a Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed automatic transmission with a Driver Shift Control manual mode and Performance Algorithm Shifting (PAS). This is an upgrade over the previous model and reviewers find that it performs smoothly. "A new six-speed automatic transmission shifts more smoothly and boosts fuel economy compared to GM's four-speed gearbox in the previous model," says Forbes. Edmunds finds that its shifts are "crisp and well-timed" and that its manual mode is "helpful on slick and winding roads." Consumer Guide says the transmission "changes gears smoothly," but they also note that "some testers cite an occasional reluctance to downshift for passing."

Handling and Braking

Reviewers find the EXT's handling surprisingly good for a truck. "This heavy full-frame luxury truck drives like a very large car," says Kelley Blue Book. "It's no sport sedan, but it is more agile, sure-footed and Cadillac-comfortable than most any other full-size truck you'll encounter." Edmunds says, "Like the rest of the Escalade family, the EXT benefited from a vastly more modern design in 2007 that endowed it with more precise steering, fairly able handling and a gentle ride." Most feel that the current model's handling is an improvement over earlier versions. The Washington Times says that the "EXT still feels big when maneuvering around the mall parking lot, but it's now more manageable."

The EXT's ride is well reviewed. "The ride quality is remarkable," says the Detroit News. Edmunds finds that "the Escalade has all the supple composure we've come to expect from the latest generation of trucks." Consumer Guide notes the "ESV/EXT's longer wheelbase contributes to [a] smoother ride." Not all reviewers are equally enthusiastic. The Dallas Morning News writes "the EXT seemed a little un-Caddy-like as it shuddered and quaked over some of Dallas' more badly pocked streets. It felt more Chevrolet than Cadillac, and I blamed the all-wheel drive for most of that." But they add that the EXT "has good basic dynamics -- a decent suspension on the sorts of petal-covered streets that most rich folk drive."

Reviews on the EXT's steering are somewhat mixed. Edmunds finds the steering to be "light and precise … and the turning radius is a relatively tidy 39 feet," but they also find that on a slalom course the EXT "went fast enough to require a little opposite steering lock (which apparently panicked the electronics sufficiently to trigger an inquiry from OnStar about whether we'd suffered some kind of airbag deployment)." Consumer Guide notes that some of their testers like the feel of the steering while others find it "vague and overassisted." And the Detroit News says that "the steering still has a few quirks and sometimes feels too isolated from the road."

Reviews of the brakes are also mixed. Consumer Guide says, "Strong brakes have [a] reassuringly firm pedal, but fast stops trigger lots of nosedive." Edmunds, in a comparison between the 2007 EXT and the competing Lincoln Mark LT, notes that "neither is exactly the poster child for braking performance. Still, the Lincoln's 134-foot stopping distance from 60 mph is considerably better than the Escalade's 142-foot performance."

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